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The G20 summit was the first of the multipolar world

Brazilian President Luiz InĂĄcio Lula da Silva and Indian PM Narendra Modi at the G20 summit. Credit: Getty

September 11, 2023 - 11:55am

The standout event from the G20 meeting this past weekend in New Delhi was the agreement on a joint statement on Ukraine signed by Western leaders and Russia. The statement avoided direct criticism of Moscow’s role in the war, and was no doubt signed with some reluctance by Western leaders. The wording of the statement may even provide a blueprint for future peace negotiations.

Western leaders agreed to sign the statement because they did not want to alienate India, which was hosting the event. As the West wakes up to the reality of a rapidly changing world, with the Brics alliance adding six new members last month, it is starting to see the need for realpolitik. India has become key to the emerging strategy because, although the country styles itself as the leader of the Global South, it is not firmly in the Russia-China camp.

These dynamics also explain other developments at the summit. The African Union — a continental grouping encompassing 55 member states that came into being in 1999 — has been added to the G20 in much the same way as the EU represents its member states. The inclusion of the African Union was suggested by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May.

Finally, there were the calls to increase the size and scope of World Bank lending to developing countries. Ahead of the summit, President Biden called for an expansion of $25bn, with the potential to grow another $100bn if pledges from other countries could be secured. On Saturday, a joint statement was signed that pledged to “mobilise more headroom and concessional finance to boost the World Bank’s capacity to support low and middle-income countries”.

Notably the statement also seemed to point in the direction of changed criteria for lending, stating that the World Bank should “undertake comprehensive efforts to evolve their vision, incentive structures, operational approaches and financial capacities”. This may be the beginning of a recognition of a need for pragmatism at the World Bank which, in early August suspended lending to Ghana because its anti-LGBT law goes against the bank’s values.

India is playing its role as a balancing power extremely well. It is keeping one foot in the Western camp and one in the Brics+. Its goal seems to be to maximise the power and extract as much for the Global South as possible and, in that regard, it appears to be succeeding. Western powers really have no choice but to play along: if they don’t, they fear that countries like India, and those in the African Union, will jump ship and go all in on the Brics+ alliance.

Some in the West are convinced that they can peel India away from the Brics+ bloc, with recent reports suggesting that India’s preparatory planning for a potential US-China conflict over Taiwan is a sign that India might join the US in containing China. This is highly unlikely to be the case, as China is now India’s second largest and fastest growing trade partner. While India and China have ongoing border disputes, the country has no serious interest in Taiwan and would be unlikely to risk economic collapse by picking sides.

What we saw play out at this year’s G20 summit is a blueprint for the emerging multipolar world, where countries and regions must jockey for power and influence against one another. In such a world, the Western powers will have to stop assuming that they can dictate terms and even moralise to other countries about what values they should hold. In a world of geopolitical competition, it is only the fittest that survive.


Philip Pilkington is a macroeconomist and investment professional, and the author of The Reformation in Economics

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Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
10 months ago

The only thing the Brics+ nations have in common is a dislike of being lectured to by the West. Once we stop doing that, and start pursuing foreign policies dictated by our national interest rather than some indefinable “ethical dimension” (c) Robin Cook, the problem will largely disappear.

D Walsh
D Walsh
10 months ago

What makes you think social justice warriors will stop lecturing other people/countries

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
10 months ago

The other thing the BRICS have in common is a distaste for democracy. 

Jitwar Singh
Jitwar Singh
10 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

The world’s largest democracy is the ‘I’ in BRICS !

Josh Allan
Josh Allan
10 months ago
Reply to  Jitwar Singh

“Democracy”

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
10 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Depends what you mean by “democracy” ..according to Bernie Sanders, AMERICAN senator, the US has the best govt money can buy! and he’s right! The UK has s PM no one elected and the most unpopular govt in living memory thanks to a very undemocratic FPP electoral system! Here’s a stat for ye from a right-wing, Londonbased, think tank:
38% of Americans think their system is democratic.
71% of Chinese think their system is democratic.
Go figure as the Yanks say!

Will K
Will K
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

There are so many problems with Democracy, that any sensible person will surely consider it distasteful. The principle that a vote of an ignorant person should count as equal to that of an educated person, is illogical.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
10 months ago

You don’t think including THEIR interests might be necessary to get THEM on side? ..is there still scope to bully then? I thought that was now past?

rob clark
rob clark
10 months ago

‘In such a world, the Western powers will have to stop assuming that they can dictate terms and even moralise to other countries about what values they should hold.”

Amen to that!

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
10 months ago

With its longstanding emnity, India would certainly seek a positioning that helped to contain Chinese imperial ambition. However, that country would laugh at any suggestion that like Europe it should follow the geopolitical edicts of Victoria Nuland’s State Department. There are now 20 years of disasters to cast a geostrategic eye back upon as concerns that arm of the US government.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
10 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

If China has imperial ambitions it has a funny way of going about building its empire! In 6,000 years it hasn’t added a single country that wasn’t already, historically Chinese.

Sayantani Gupta Jafa
Sayantani Gupta Jafa
10 months ago

Multi -polarity fused with pragmatism is the message from Delhi G20.
It is also a subtle mode of de- risking G20 from being outflanked by BRICS.
If the G7 nations again privilege ideological approaches to that of sound economics, ( in the entire gamut of “progressivism” which seems to afflict the present Zeitgeist) then the pendulum may swing back to BRICS.

Last edited 10 months ago by Sayantani Gupta Jafa
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
10 months ago

Good point. How ironic would it be for the West to start rowing back on its obsession with progressivism due to the requirement to accommodate BRICS+ ; indeed replacing LGBTQ+ as the acronym du jour.

Sayantani Gupta Jafa
Sayantani Gupta Jafa
10 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

In fact one reason for BRICS to be in demand for reaching ” +” stage is the coalescing of Woke and ” Rainbow” prerogatives of multi- lateral funding from the Bretton Woods institutions, in many developing countries like Uganda or Bangladesh. ESG in particular is being weaponized by the West and being used against the non West, another reason for BRICS to not lose its steam.
I suspect that both will remain parallel tracks where most of the Global South will want to keep a finger, just in case Wokery subsumes G20 again with a fresh salvo of extreme ” climate action” sans moderation.

Anna Bramwell
Anna Bramwell
10 months ago

I liked Modi for his attack on the AGW craziness. And I see his statement has been quietly hidden away so that we can read about less embarrassing revelations.

JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
10 months ago

I was happy to go along with Mr. Pilkington until the final sentence:

In a world of geopolitical competition, it is only the fittest that survive.

Where did that come from? BRICS+ is, if anything, a trading club, not a collective security arrangement or power bloc. The point about a multipolar world order is precisely to overcome bloc-thinking, and India was an early and key pillar of the “bloc” of neutral and non-aligned states.
The key premise underlying the OSCE as well is that states refrain from seeking to change, destabilise, or attempt to shift in their favour the political-military balance in Europe. The principle is “live and let live”, not “survival of the fittest”.

Ardath Blauvelt
Ardath Blauvelt
10 months ago

Pay close attention to India.

Will K
Will K
9 months ago

The world order has been changed, and it is not to the benefit of the US. Mr Biden did this. I very much doubt if Mr Biden intended this. He probably anticipated a military defeat of Russia without US casualties, then a continuation of US world dominance as usual.